The History of Ethiopian Jewry

The Jewish community in Ethiopia — the Beta Israel (House of Israel) — has existed for about 15 centuries.

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Due to low literacy levels, a tendency to rely on oral traditions, and nomadic lifestyles among most Ethiopians before the 20th century, historical material about this community is scant and unreliable. However, a tentative story can be put together from written records of Ethiopian rulers along with testimony from Beta Israel themselves.

Origins of the Community
Most likely, Beta Israel made their way to Ethiopia between the first and sixth centuries, coming as merchants or artisans from various countries within the region.

An Ethiopian Jewish family shortly after arriving in Israel in 2009. (Jewish Agency for Israel/Flickr)An Ethiopian Jewish family shortly after arriving in Israel in 09.

Scholars once believed that during the Middle Ages, Beta Israel was a homogeneous group living under unified, autonomous Jewish rule. Yet discoveries have shown the reality is much more complicated. It seems the Ethiopian Jewish community was, for the most part, fragmented both physically and religiously, with each Beta Israel village appointing its own spiritual and secular leaders. There was little contact between Beta Israel communities, and usually no overarching leadership uniting them.

Sometimes Beta Israel was treated well from the Ethiopian monarchy, but at other times they suffered persecution. Many fellow Ethiopians refer to Beta Israel as Falasha (a derogatory term meaning outsider), In 1624, the ruling king’s army captured many Ethiopian Jews, forced them to be able to be baptized, and denied them the right to own land. Based on local legend, some participants in Beta Israel chose suicide over conversion.

Religious Life
Because the Beta Israel community existed as an isolated condition from other Jewish communities around the world, they formed a unique set of ethical practices — in specific ways, quite different from what is usually considered “Jewish.” For instance, the online order of Ethiopian Jewish monks was founded in the 15th century to strengthen the community’s religious identity and resist Christian influence. This monastic movement introduced a systematic strategy to spiritual practice, creating new religious literature and prayers, and adopting laws of formality purity. Historians found out about the community’s religious life within the 19th century from the writings of Joseph Halevy, a French Jew who visited the world in 1867. He provided the first eyewitness account of Beta Israel’s life coming from a European Jewish perspective. However, Halevy described a residential area that followed legal sections in the Hebrew Bible and observed laws of purity surrounding menstruation, birth, and death. They observed Shabbat and believed in values, for instance, respecting elders, receiving guests, and visiting mourners. They referred to the Torah as Orit (possibly beginning with the Aramaic term for the Torah, Oraita), and kept their Torah scrolls contain colorful cloths in houses of prayer or the properties of 1 of the kessim (priests).

Ethiopian rabbis (Kessim) with the ceremony associated with a new spiritual leader in Ashkelon, Israel, in 2012. (Wikimedia Commons)Ethiopian rabbis (Kessim) at the tradition of a new spiritual leader in Ashkelon, Israel, in 2012. Like today in Israel, Ethiopian Jews celebrated Sigd, a festival that commemorates the giving of the Torah. On this holiday, community members would quick, climb the highest mountain within the area, and listen to the kessim chant passages of the Hebrew Bible, particularly the Book of Nehemiah. At the later part of the day, they might descend, break their fast, and rejoice in their renewed acceptance of the Orit.

Missionaries and Trying Times
At the time of Halevy’s report, perhaps one of the biggest challenges facing the Ethiopian Jewish community was European missionary activity. Although the community had frequently been provoked to convert by Ethiopian authorities, missionaries from abroad — with large-scale, organized missions — presented an even stronger threat.

European missionaries, well-versed in the Hebrew Bible, were educated and skilled in debate. Beta Israel’s clergy could not compete. By providing schools and Bibles written in the local language, Amharic, the missionaries challenged the community’s practice and faith.

On any range of occasions, Beta Israel’s monastic clergy tried to escape the missionaries’ influence by leading their communities to the Promised Land (Israel). More often than not, these journeys were disastrous. One particular attempt in 1862 ended in large-scale starvation and death.

Between 1882 and 1892, the regions of Ethiopia where Beta Israel lived experienced a famine that killed approximately one third to one half of Beta Israel.

This world Jewish Community
Halevy’s student, Jaques Faitlovitch, was the very first Jewish foreigner to operate in earnest on improving conditions regarding the Ethiopian Jewish community. Arriving for his first visit in 1904 and returning many times in subsequent years, Faitlovitch created tiny schools in Addis Ababa for Beta Israel members, hand-picked 25 young leaders for education abroad, and acted as an emissary concerning this world Jewish community.

Faitlovich secured two letters from rabbis abroad, acknowledging Beta Israel as fellow Jews. The very first letter, written in 1906, called Beta Israel, “our brethren, sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who live in Abyssinia” and “our flesh and blood.” The letter, which promised to help the community within its religious education, was signed by 44 world Jewish leaders, including the chief rabbis of London and Vienna and of course, the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem.

The next letter, from 1921, was written by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the revered Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Palestine. He called on the Jewish people worldwide to avoid wasting Beta Israel — “50,000 holy souls considering the house of Israel” — from “extinction and contamination.”

Faitlovich’s work towards behalf of the Beta Israel community arrived in a dramatic halt with the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935-6. Under fascist rule, it became forbidden to experience Judaism in Ethiopia.

Some of Faitlovitch’s work was undeniably controversial — he made a schism dividing the young, westernized leaders he chose beginning with the elders of the rural communities. But, till the 1960s, no person but Faitlovitch took such a dedicated interest in the community, invested in it financially and educationally, and visited with such regularity. Moreover, it was the letters that Faitlovitch delivered to Ethiopia from Kook along with other contemporary Jewish leaders that allowed Beta Israel to cling to their dreams of returning to the Promised Land, and, decades later, for world Jewry to readily accept them.

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https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-history-of-ethiopian-jewry/

Jew of Color under counted in census

What demographic selection of the American Jewish community has more members: Jews of color or even the Orthodox?

Jews of color are actually round the same size — 12-15% of American Jews, or about 1 million people — according to new research published last week. The research focused on fixing the prevalent false impression that American Jews are almost entirely white-skinned.

The analysis demonstrates so just how mediocre a task most demographers of American Jews have done in researching non-white Jews, tossing something of a wrench into the field of Jewish population research studies while the corporations that mentor them. Its generating estimation of how many American Jews of color have far-reaching effects for Jewish organizations organizing their funding, their programming, and just how they educate Jewish leaders.

Until this study, estimates for the number of Jews of color when you look at the U.S. varied widely. By the Pew Research Center’s 2013 “Portrait of American Jews,” 7% of Jews described themselves as black, Hispanic or of an unusual racial background. Be’ chol Lashon, a group that promotes racial and ethnic diversity in Judaism, place the number at a fifth regarding the broader population in 2002. Researcher defined “racially and ethnically diverse” Jews as to any or all Jews not of Western or Eastern European heritage, including Sephardic and Mazrahi Jews with roots in Southern Europe, North Africa or even the Middle East.

The new report — funded with a $35,000 grant from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation — lays out how others try to measure Jews of color both nationally and also by the town were flawed. Its double-entendre would title “Counting Inconsistencies.” You can browse the executive summary here.

Some surveys, like Boston’s 2015 community study, did not ask about race after all. Others (e.g., Philadelphia 2009, Seattle 2014) found their sampling population by contacting people with Jewish-sounding names — something a Jew of color may not have — or limited respondents to people already from the donor and membership lists of established synagogues and Jewish community centers.

Even though they did inquire about race, the surveys did so in ways that suggest they did not have current definitions by what constituted a racial identity, an ethnic identity or only a category of Jewish heritage. For example, some surveys asked about “ethnicity,” while others asked about “Jewish ethnicity.” For a concern about personal identity, Miami’s 2015 study limited respondents to “a) Sephardic Jew, b) A Hispanic Jew or c) What country can be your family from?”

“Ultimately the takeaway regarding the report is the fact that we have been asking these questions very poorly and extremely inconsistently,” said Ari Kelman, a professor of religion at Stanford University, therefore, the study’s lead author. There is way more consistency, Kelman noted, in questions regarding denominational identity: Are you Conservative? Will you be Orthodox?

The first intention regarding the report, Kelman said, would be to take data from 25 Jewish population studies and produce a complete database of demographic information about Jews of color. However, considering that the studies were so inconsistent, their results could never be combined into a single source of information.

“When we set about analyzing that Ilana [Kaufman] wished to do, it became clear that it was impossible,” Kelman said.

The resulting numbers that came out of this study, then, are a rough approximation — not the gold standard for accurate demographic studies. However, Kelman stands by the report’s full results, such as that roughly one out of five Jewish homes has a non-white or multiracial member, and that the proportion of non-white Jews will continue to increase into the 21st century.

For many people who work in organizations that support Jews of color, this type of study was long overdue.

“Most, or even all, of these surveys that float around, they’re by people who aren’t us, and don’t necessarily have the lenses, the set of skills that some people have as Jewish diversity professionals to see in the middle the lines,” said Jared Jackson, the executive director of Jews in most Hues, a non-for-profit in Philadelphia that promotes diversity consciousness within the Jewish world.

Jackson noted this one particularly favorable outcome using this report could be so it would lend credence to calls from Jews of color for racial sensitivity and training as synagogues around the country beef up their security. Synagogue members and security personnel have profiled many Jews of color — Jackson said he hopes that, if people understand that 1 million Jews are not white, they might be less likely to want to pull aside a non-white person in the shul lobby on Shabbat.

The report also shows that, into the 21st century, the American Jewish community should come closer to mirroring the racial and ethnic diversity of the country at large, Kaufman said.

That is a lovely thing that our community has all of this diversity, and certainly will continue steadily to grow.

Prepared, in this case, Kaufman said, means updating curricula in Jewish schools and seminaries, increasing diversity training at synagogues and directing funding to programs that help Jews of color feel visible and respected in the broader Jewish community — something which is certainly not always a given.

Diane Tobin, the founder, and director of Be’ chol Lashon said that she welcomed the report, but added that readers should keep in your mind “the caveat that race is a social construct with ever-shifting boundaries.” Even 70 years back, she noted, white-skinned Jews were not yet considered white.

Counting Jews remains a complex and contentious issue, not only for Jews of color however for all Jews.

There is still much to be discovered about American Jews of color. How many have been profiled in a Jewish setting? Exactly how many have moved away from Jewish observance, and how many towards it? How many will say they “pass” as white? What several Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews consider themselves white, and just how many usually do not? Do they believe about Israel differently than white-skinned Jews? How many identify as “culturally” Jewish, and just how many have a belief in God?

Jews likewise require to focus on something Jews of color have now been saying for a long time: that their racial and ethnic identities are not any less important to them than their Jewish identities, and really should be treated as a result. She acknowledged that that might be an arduous pill to swallow for many white Jews since many were raised being defined solely by their religion.

Jews used to be isolated, and then we have successfully incorporated into a free of charge market society of choice around identity.

Reference
Cannes Lions: Lena Waithe Says Diversity Is About More …. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/cannes-lions-lena-waithe-says-diversity-is-more-just-screen-time-1122225

Jews Of Color Have Been Consistently – forward.com. https://forward.com/news/national/425129/jews-of-color-survey-jewish-population/

The University Of Kansas Health System – Sports Medicine …. https://www.kansashealthsystem.com/care/centers/sports-medicine-performance-center/resources

Jewish traditional teachings on being a good host and guest

Rabbinic literature is abundant in claims praising the application of hospitality on behalf of visitors and indigents. One even refers to it as “greater than welcoming the Divine Presence [Sh’khinah].”

A Midrash exhibits the biblical patriarch Abraham since the paragon of hospitality, because of his reception of wayfarers in Genesis 18. His position in the entry of his tent in the midday heat is viewed as a proactive seeking out of passing visitors. Other components of the storyline, too, play a role in Abraham’s reputation: his eagerness, his largesse, and his insistence on seeing his visitors off as they departed.

The citizens of Jerusalem, too, are depicted in Midrashic literature as excelling in this virtue. If the Holy Temple still stood in Jerusalem, that city was the getaway of pilgrims from throughout the Land of Israel in the three harvest festivals. The rabbinic storytellers of late antiquity relate that Jerusalem’s citizens opened their residences for free to those visitors.

Not just our food and accommodation to be offered for passing visitors, but the travelers should be accommodated graciously. The statement of the first sage Shammai this one should “greet every person with a cheerful facial expression” (Mishnah Avot 1:15) is understood midrashically (in Avot De-Rabbi Natan 13) as an admonition to hosts to not provide for their guests amply but angrily. Better, teaches the Midrash, to offer a guest but a little in a gracious tone than large portions proffered grudgingly.

At the start of a traditional Passover seder, Jews recite a formulaic declaration of an “open house” policy of hospitality: “Let all who will be hard-pressed come and eat. Let all that are in need come and share the Passover sacrifice.” This statement is an expansion of what the third-century Babylonian sage Rav Huna was proven to make each time he sat down to a meal: “Let all who will be in need come and eat!” (Babylonian Talmud, Ta’anit 20b).

Some Jewish communities of the past institutionalized the practice of providing cordial reception to wayfarers by developing a furnished home for such temporary visitors. Others offered them lodging when you look at the communal synagogue. The Diaspora tradition of reciting into the synagogue the kiddush prayer at the beginning of a Shabbat or holiday evening — a prayer usually offered where the festive meal is eaten — has its origins for the reason that use of the community’s gathering space.

To this day, it is a hallmark of many Jewish communities that unfamiliar participants in synagogue worship, specifically on Shabbat or holidays, are invited to local people’s homes for a meal — and, if arrangements are created in advance, frequently for lodging as well.

Traditional mandates extend into the guest as well. Guests should stay away from causing hosts extra work. They ought to accede with their host’s or hostess’s requests. A guest should not bring along another, unasked guest. If the guest and host are going into the home together, the visitor should defer to the host. Leaving together, a guest should leave ahead of the host.

Reference

Jewish Hospitality | My Jewish Learning. https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/jewish-hospitality/

Why is it dangerous to wear a kippah in public?

It is dangerous to determine publicly as Jewish in Germany, including wearing a kippah or yalmulka, Germany’s commissioner warned.

In an interview, Felix Klein told the Berliner Morgenpost on May 24 that he could not endorse that Jews wear a kippah everywhere and any time in Germany. Klein said servants that are public should be more educated on how to combat anti-Semitism in Germany.

Recent government statistics showed a 20 percent rise in the number of anti-Semitic crimes reported within the past year, with an overall total of about 1,800 in the year of 2018. The vast majority of crimes for which a perpetrator or motive is well known were related to the far-right wing.

When looking at the controversial interview published in newspapers of the Funke Media Group, Klein – appointed to his position into the Interior Ministry just last year – was inquired about the security of wearing the traditional Jewish head covering.
Reference
Dangerous to wear a kippah in public, Germany’s anti …. https://www.jta.org/2019/05/26/global/dangerous-to-wear-a-kippah-in-public-germanys-anti-semitism-czar-says

Jews in Dayton cautioned to keep away from the KKK rally

The representative of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Dayton called on the Jewish public to avoid a Ku Klux Klan rally arranged for Saturday in the Ohio metropolis.

Rabbi Ari Ballaban mentioned in a statement issued previously this week that a counter gathering planned to take place right next to the Honorable Sacred Knights, an Indiana-based white supremacist group, would just give the crowd the conflict it is looking for.

Ballaban called on the Jewish community to either remain home or attend the “positive alternative programming” sponsored by the localized NAACP chapter and a coalition of some forty city organizations. Titled “An Afternoon of Love, Unity, Peace and Diversity,” the program is being presented about a mile from the KKK gathering in the downtown area Courthouse Square.

About twenty participants of the KKK cluster are anticipated to march on Saturday. They reportedly will be permitted to carry legal sidearm weapons but not rifles, bats or shields, Newsweek reported. About one thousand demonstrators are also anticipated.

The city authorized the rally in February after the application to use the general public space was filled out correctly and submitted.

Mayor Nan Whaley also called on citizens to steer away of the KKK gathering.

“This hate group that is coming in from outside the community wants to instigate troubles in the community and people need to end that from happening,” she advised Ohio’s Fox45. The people actually do not need people to go downtown because that is what this hate group wants, and we don’t want to render this hate group exactly what they want.

Whaley in her comments additionally stated that Judaism standards the preservation of life on top almost anything else.

Did you know that 90% of Jews Are Genetically Linked to the Levant?

Jews in communities round the globe show more hereditary characteristics with each other compared to they do making use of their non-Jewish neighbors, apart from India and Ethiopia.

Truly the only three conditions were the Jews of India, Ethiopia, and Georgia, who had additional similarity to their host nations than to other Jewish communities.

The study also showed the genetic ties involving the Jewish people as well as other peoples of the Levant: In communities representing 90 percent of this Jewish people worldwide, Jews were more genetically comparable to non-Jewish Levantines than their non-Jewish hosts were.

The analysis discovered genetic substructures not found in many other Middle Eastern populations.

Researchers from eight countries – Israel, Britain, the United States, Russia, Spain, Estonia, Portugal and Italy – compared 600,000 genetic markers in 114 people from 14 Diaspora Jewish communities and 1,161 individuals from 69 non-Jewish populations.

Contemporary Jews comprise an aggregate of ethno-religious communities whose worldwide members identify with each other through assorted shared religious, historical and cultural traditions.

Re-discovering the joys of Racial Diversity in Your Synagogues: Who Are actually Jews of Color?

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Jews of Color is a pan-ethnic concept which is used to distinguish Jews whose family roots happen to be traditionally in African, Asian or Latin-American countries around the world. Jews of Color may possibly indicate that they are Black, Latino/a, Asian-American or perhaps of mixed heritage which include biracial or multi-racial.

As a result of many reasons, Sephardi or Mizrahi Jews who cam from North African and Arab countries differ in whether they self-identify as “Jews of Color.”

Jews of Color become a member of the Jewish community in lots of ways, including: birth, transracial/transnational adoption, and conversion. Additionally, the Jewish community incorporates a number of people of color who become a member of the Jewish community because of family connections, i.e. through interfaith relationship, but who maintain their faith-identity.

The research concerning the population of Jews of Color suggests that that 11% of Jews in America happen to be Jews of Color.